Thursday, September 3, 2015

SNR Panhandling, Week Two

In this week’s Sacramento News & Review, the publication is in its second week of  panhandling.

Except that the muck-a-mucks of the publication dress better than most homeless guys, the mucks are on a rough par with homeless people waving their “Help me with $$$” signs on freeway off-ramps.

SNR's 09/03/15 cover
To her somewhat credit, co-editor Rachel Leibrock wrote a plea for reader donations that is shy and reluctant. Leibrock’s plea began thus:
As a journalist, I'm typically loathe to cross the line between editorial and advertising. Reporters do the reporting, analyzing and writing that fills pages. Sales people sell ads that keep those pages in print. 
As such, it feels pretty weird to talk money, but strange times call for strange measures.
"Strange times?" Not so much. "Strange measures," indeed!

In the prior week’s issue, it was publisher Jeff vonKaenel waving the collection plate in front of readers’ eyes. He wrote:
Legal cases are expensive. Our legal bill is currently approaching $30,000—and rising. So, we are in the frustrating position of spending money on legal costs that we would rather spend on reporting. 
As a result, we have decided to set up a legal fund.

In addition to this legal-aid effort, we also will be announcing soon a journalism foundation to help fund investigative and watchdog reporting in Sacramento.
Legitimate charities, which is something SN&R isn’t, are required to file some papers which then get used, in part, to inform interested potential donors about the charity and provide basic financial information such that these potential donors might assess the enterprise on whether it is prudent or wasteful with money.

These filings can tell us things like how much money top administrators are paid and what percentage of money that is raised ends up actually being used for the benefit of the public.

SNR, however, is a for-profit business. While any money that is raised via begging is likely to be used in a manner in accord with claims made about how the money will be spent, such a scheme has as its most likely outcome just one of filling the business owner’s [vonKaenel’s!] pockets. [Here, by the way, is the "Go Fund Me" site that vonKaenel has set up to receive his filthy lucre: http://www.gofundme.com/SNRlegalhelp ]

Here is how things then work:
The fund-raising effort can have been initiated with the best of intentions. But as a practical matter, the financial benefit of vonKaenel not himself meeting HIS financial obligations as publisher (that is, getting foolish Sacramentans to pay HIS bill) is, frankly,  the equivalent of letting vonKaenel rob you. 
Even my homeless pals at the freeway off-ramps aren’t so craven as to fop off the expenses of their business (which they don’t have) on the people in cars leaving the freeway. 
The alternative for vonKaenel is simple. Indeed, it is HOW SMALL BUSINESSES OPERATE!!! If vonKaenel has a business that is in trouble, he can sell a percentage of ownership in his business such that there are more owners with wealth available to pay the bills .. and share the profits in the best of times. 
Paying legal expenses IS A NORMAL EXPENSE IN OPERATING A BUSINESS. For a journalism enterprise, suing and being sued isn’t uncommon. Having to deal with a lawsuit is not an abnormal expense. [And besides that, $30,000 isn't a lot of money to SNR. It's chump change. It's what? Most of the cost for them to employ one clerical employee? Who is just one of 102 staff members in Sacramento, by my count. And remember, this doesn't include the staffs for his other two tabloids in Chico and Reno.]
Has anybody reading this ever had a legal expense? Did you create an “Oh boy, I’m gonna get me some of that free money” scheme to avoid paying your bill? Did you rub your hands together, thinking about what chumps those stupid Sacramento citizens are – how since there are THOUSANDS of them they won’t even notice that they’re being ripped off, one chunk of money at a time?

You know, Citizens of Sacramento. I have an idea. If you have currency falling out of your pockets when you walk down the street, why not buy some solar panels for your roof? or buy water-thrifty toilets? or replace your car with one that is more fuel efficient? Doing these things, you would be doing good for all of society. Or, consider this: One out of five children in America go to school hungry. Give the money falling out of your pockets to No Kid Hungry. Or, help homeless people. Give a suffering guy you see out on the street a couple bucks.

The idea of vonKaenel’s to create a fund for investigative- or watchdog-reporting is problematic in the same manner as the legal-fund drive. It serves only to fatten vonKaenel’s wallet, not to – somehow – make the Sacramento News and Review a more-bodacious publication.

It's pointless to try to separate out what vonKaenel would pay for reporting from (1) the bucket of money that comes from advertising and other “normal” revenue from (2) what comes in as foolishly-given donations. Either way, some extra chuck of change is going into owner vonKaenel’s pocket as ill-gained profits. It's theft that could gain the admiration of John Dillinger.

His weekly publication ALWAYS has been and ALWAYS will be an operation that raises money and has expenses that are met and that (except in the worst of times) makes a profit that vonKaenel, essentially, pockets.

Think about this: vonKaenel wants to create a fund for the jazzy, worthy-sounding effort to fund investigative reporting.  THAT he wants YOU to pay for. All the crap in the weekly, including his Greenlight column -- which is always a snooze -- and the usual yawn-inspiring Editor’s column and silly editorials-without-a-writer-being-named shit and the points up-and-down boring stuff and the bad jokes and the smugness and other puerile efforts at being funny/jokey. THAT he’ll pay for. Why? Because he knows that nobody who has the commonsense that God gave a goat would PAY to keep the overabundant crap.

Nonetheless, what’s in the publication brings in revenue in sometimes-mysterious ways. Sure, vonKaenel has pages upon pages of dining/food articles to directly bring in restaurant ads. A marijuana columnist is there specifically to aid marijuana-ad sales. Joey Garcia is there to bring in intelligent, compassionate readers, like myself. And the masturbatory-phonecall ads are there because no other publication in Sacramento wants anything to do with them. vonKaenel prints the jerk-off ads because he can charge a fortune for them; the ad-buyers have nowhere else they can go.

Sometimes – maybe oft-times – the long investigative pieces are what bedazzle SNR readers. And it is THESE readers -- fans of “journalism done smashingly well” in our freedom-loving city and country -- who pour over every m***er-f**king word with wide eyes, while dripping drool and experiencing delight and maybe the effects of a fifth of scotch who, then, later scan the advertising in the publication and buy lots of the stuff that’s advertised which motivates the advertisers to stick with SNR through yet another rough year.

My point is this: you can’t separate out what brings in money for the publication from what doesn’t. The investigative pieces probably DO pay for themselves. There is no way for vonKaenel to justify setting up a hare-brained scheme for him to pay for the shit and leave it to gullible rich/middle class/poor donors to pay for the long, high-merit, informative articles – like what Cosmo Garvin wrote before he was killed and his corpse was dragged out and left in the middle of the street.

In any case, what vonKaenel needs IS NOT donations. What he should do, if SNR is a money loser, is sell the swanky office building on DelPaso Blvd and move into a slummy office, like what the Bee has. He can get rid of the bad reporters, which would include all of them who have ever written about homelessness for the publication. He can stop publishing in hardcopy and fully plant his product on the Internet. Join those of us in the 21st Century, Jeff!

What is insane is for vonKaenel to run a business and expect it to be supported by donations to cover a couple of sexy expense needs amongst the many things it does in a vast repertoire that runs the gamet from too-rare mighty reporting to too-frequent hateful silliness.

Another thing vonKaenel can do is charge readers a quarter or more to pull a hardcopy issue of the weekly tabloid out of the rack. I wouldn't pay so much as a quarter for it, but I think many readers would.

UPDATE: Nosing around the GoFundMe website, I found pages-upon-pages of Sacramento-area users of GoFundMe. [Click on link below.] Note how people, in overwhelming majority, use the service to pay for funerals, medical bills after a tragedy and other devastating losses. AND, notice how few are seeking five-figure amounts. These are fundraisers for people whose lives have taken a serious blow; not for people, like Jeff vonKaenel, who, selfishly, seek to find chumps to pay their bills.  See:  http://www.gofundme.com/mvc.php?route=search&page=3&term=95835&country=US



2 Comments:

Blogger Joe M. said...

I don't know if my message made it so I will redo it in short form. I am homeless, I wasn't counted as one I don't think, I work part time and i get food stamps. I sleep in my truck and am still looking for full time work, and I certainly DON'T BEG for money. From Joe

September 9, 2015 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

Hi, Joe. During my four years of near-penniless homelessness, I never begged for or borrowed money. A guy on the street did give me five dollars one morning. I spent it at Starbucks. I got food stamps after my first year of homelessness and did a very modest amount of work that paid a small sum. I was too much of a mess to expect legit employment.

You may not know if you were included in the Homeless Count. When they do the one-night count in January, they will include people that have recently received services of some kind from the homeless charities, even if the guy isn't on a shelter list and they don't see him on the night of the count.

September 9, 2015 at 4:48 PM  

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